HALIFAX – The website of the IWK Health Centre in Halifax was taken offline for a night and part of a day earlier this month as the result of a possible hacker attack. Nick Cox, a spokesperson for the hospital, said it’s not clear exactly what caused the issue. No patient information was ever at risk, he said.
Cox said the website firewall detected what appeared to a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Such attacks originate from numerous computers at once.
He said the website was taken down as a precaution so the hospital’s information technology team could fix it. This is the second time this summer an IWK-affiliated website was targeted by hackers.
On July 5, the website of the Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program was defaced with the message, “Hacked by El Moujahidin Team.”
In early September, Twitter user @halifaxanon posted a link to a YouTube video called #opiwk. In the video, a computer-generated voice recites a rambling and sometimes non-sensical message that mentions the IWK Health Centre.
“Greetings to the citizens of the world: IWK Health Centre 5980 University Boulevard,” it begins.
“Our children will have two things to say that we should not prevent the hospital to rescue the children of the war!”
The video goes on for just over two minutes.
CBC News contacted sources within the Anonymous community in Nova Scotia who called it a “false flag op,” saying there is no known Anonymous connection to the video, #opiwk, or problems with the IWK website.
James Covey, the director of the web team at Dalhousie University, said whenever an institution has a public website, it instantly becomes a potential target.
“When we publish a website on a public-facing web, fundamentally it is a public-facing site,” he said. “There’s no 100 percent secure way to publish publicly.”
While he doesn’t know the particulars of this case, it’s possible the incident was entirely automated, Covey said.
“There are bots out there that will crawl the internet and attack random sites until they find a vulnerability. And those vulnerabilities can be specific to certain software, that sort of thing.”
Covey watched the Anonymous-style video, but said it doesn’t feel authentic.
“I found it very confusing. And I wouldn’t necessarily assume it’s related to the issue that they’re having. Certainly it’s a very cryptic video to say the least.”